Growing up, spaghetti and meatballs looked like this—spaghetti topped with a ladle full of “spaghetti sauce” and 3-4 meatballs. The sauce was never quite mixed in and the only topping was a dusting of finely grated Parmesan cheese. It was fine, but nothing to get excited about.
Cheesy baked spaghetti and meatballs is a whole different ballgame. Spaghetti tossed in marinara and baked with simple homemade meatballs with a melted layer of an Italian blend of cheeses. The pasta has an amazing overall thicker texture thanks to baking in a skillet. It will change the way you look at spaghetti and meatballs forever.
This recipe is all made in a cast iron skillet for easy stove to oven transfer with minimal pots. You just need an extra pot to boil the spaghetti…sorry.
How to Make Easy Homemade Meatballs
Homemade meatballs sound intimidating and time-consuming, however, it’s just the opposite. If you’ve made seasoned burgers or meatloaf then you’ve basically made giant meatballs. This is my mother’s recipe with a few tweaks.
The meatball mix consists of a 50-50 split of ground beef and sweet Italian sausage, finely chopped celery, breadcrumbs (panko or regular), milk, Parmesan cheese, egg, garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper.
Mix well with your hands, roll into 1-inch uniform balls, brown in a skillet with olive oil and then bake with the spaghetti, marinara, and cheese. You can even make these meatballs eggless with solid results.
Just to note, fresh meatballs will need to bake in the oven for about 20 minutes to fully cook. The browning in the skillet will start the process and give them a nice texture.
Can I Use Frozen Meatballs?
You can, however, you just may want to heat them in a saucepan with some marinara beforehand to warm up or defrost for an hour or so. They will bake in the oven however depending on the size and thickness they may not be finished during the 20 minute baking period.
The Cheese Topping
For this recipe, I used about 1 1/2 cups of an Italian blend of pre-shredded cheese. Mozzarella, provolone, romano, fontina, asiago, and parmesan. I think it adds a lot of character to the dish but you can also you plain shredded mozzarella. I usually opt for fresh mozzarella but for this recipe, shredded low moisture mozzarella works best for a nice layer of cheese.
I almost exclusively use Rao’s marinara in my pasta dishes. No, they’re not paying me to say this although they should be. It’s a phenomenal sauce with the right thickness and well-balanced flavor. Marinara will make or break you’re dish so I recommend opting for a nicer one you know and love. I usually stick Rao’s traditional marinara however they do have different seasoned and spiced variations.
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Cheesy baked spaghetti and meatballs is a whole new take on the classic dish. Spaghetti tossed in marinara and baked with simple homemade meatballs with a melted layer of an Italian blend of cheeses.
- 12–14 ounces spaghetti
- 24 ounces marinara ( I like Rao’s)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend (or mozzarella) cheese
- Fresh chopped basil, garnish
Meatballs (makes 16-18 meatballs)
- 1 pound 85% lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
- 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 celery stalks, very finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 /4 teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375℉.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente.
- Meanwhile, place breadcrumbs in a large bowl and add milk, giving a quick stir to mix. Add all remaining meatball ingredients and mix using your hands until fully incorporated. Shape into 1 inch balls or slightly larger and set on a plate.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat in a cast-iron skillet. Add all the meatballs and cook for about 1 minute per side until nicely browned on the exterior, about 2-3 total minutes, occasionally rotating/rolling. Remove from skillet and place on a plate.
- Remove skillet from the heat and let it slightly cool. Add 1 cup of marinara and add strained spaghetti. Toss with tongs until evenly mixed with the sauce. Nestle the meatballs in the spaghetti and drizzle with an additional cup of marinara. I like to spoon the sauce over the top of the entire skillet and spread a little to evenly coat.
- Top with a layer of cheese and bake for 20-22 minutes. Cheese should just be turning golden. Can give a quick broil at the end to crisp cheese if desired. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and serve.
Meatballs can be made ahead and frozen. Thaw before cooking raw meatballs. Can also freeze fully cooked. Recommend to thaw fully before making this recipe.
- Serving Size: Spaghetti and 3 meatballs
- Calories: 597
- Sugar: 3.4g
- Sodium: 1045mg
- Fat: 29.7g
- Saturated Fat: 10.7g
- Carbohydrates: 41.5g
- Fiber: 0.7g
- Protein: 36g
- Cholesterol: 171g
Keywords: spaghetti and meatballs, homemade meatballs